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Re: [GTh] Out from Jerusalem

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  • Michael Grondin
    ... difference between Philip and the Philip in narrative of Acts. Matthew cannot be used to define the Philip in Acts. In Acts, Philip is not an
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 10, 2003
      > Thomas Bond replies:
      > It seems to me that one thing that should be kept in mind here is the
      difference between "Philip" and the "Philip in narrative of Acts." Matthew
      cannot be used to define the Philip in Acts. In Acts, Philip is not an
      Apostle; he is among the circle of Stephen, i.e., "deacons." The issue for
      the author of Acts is the continuity of Apostolic Christianity and a
      Jerusalem center. That is why Peter and John are sent to Samaria, much as
      Barnabas is sent to Antioch. Moreover, the author of Acts does not say that
      Philip could not impart the Holy Spirit, just that the believers in Samaria
      had not received the Holy Spirit. Whereas, in Antioch, gentile believers
      did receive the Spirit through non-apostolic witness. It seems to me that
      the issue of the reception of the Spirit in Samaria is a set-up for the
      confrontation between Peter and Simon. In Acts, Philip is just not a main
      character. Peter is the hero of Acts 1-15 for the author of Acts.

      Just some remarks in addition to yours, Thomas:

      Philip the evangelist isn't a star in Acts, as you say, but he does play an
      intriguing and dramatically important role. We first meet him at the
      beginning of chapter 6, where the Hellenists are complaining that their
      widows are being "overlooked" (whatever that means) at the daily servings
      (diakonia). The response of the Twelve (who've evidently been doing the
      serving up to that point) is sort of a non sequitur. They say that it's not
      desirable/pleasing that they themselves should wait tables (thus
      side-stepping the charge of discrimination against the Hellenistic widows),
      and ask that the community select seven men "full of the Spirit and wisdom"
      as deacons (servants). Philip is the second-named of these seven, after
      Stephen, who is said to be "full of faith and the Holy Spirit". The order of
      the names reveals that the author of Acts takes Philip to be the second
      most-prominent, and in the remainder of Acts he mentions none of the others
      (to the best of my reading).

      Politically, it appears that the Twelve have met the charge of
      discrimination against the Hellenistic widows by allowing the Hellenists to
      select some (or all) of the Seven. (BTW, Stevan Davis has written about this
      episode in _The Revolt of the Widows_, no longer in print, I believe.)

      Thematically, the selection of the Seven is followed by a plot development
      tying together Stephen, Philip, and Saul, and with continuing implications
      about the difference in fortunes between the two segments of the movement.
      In chapter 5, Peter and the apostles escape capital punishment by the
      intervention of Gamaliel the Pharisee, but the Hellenists are not so lucky
      in chapter 7. Stephen is brought before the Council for his overzealous
      oratory and, after a long speech, taken outside Jerusalem and stoned to
      death. Here we meet Saul for the first time. In a wrenchingly dramatic
      moment, Stephen's clothing is placed at Saul's feet prior to the stoning
      (which, if true, may indicate that Saul had a leading role in the
      execution - perhaps as representative-on-the-spot of the Council.)

      Stephen's execution (for blasphemy) is followed in chapter 8 by a general
      persecution led by Saul - but not, evidently, directed at the apostles ("...
      they were all scattered ... except the apostles" - still under the
      protection of Gamaliel?) Philip goes to Samaria, and what we now know as
      chapter 8 is devoted to his preaching and baptizing there. Quite a meaty
      chapter, really, and not entirely focused on the Simon incident; there's
      also the lengthy baptism scene with the Ethiopian eunuch, which doesn't
      involve anybody except him and Philip. Finally, Philip ends his independent
      missionary journey at Caesarea. End of chapter 8. But not end of dramatic
      irony, for at 21:8 we meet Philip again, briefly, for one last time. Now
      called an "evangelist", he's still in Caesarea and Saul (now Paul) is
      passing through on his way to Jerusalem - a journey that'll culminate in his
      own trial in Jerusalem and his eventual execution in Rome. The circle is
      complete. The man who oversaw the martyrdom of Stephen is now about to
      undergo his own martyrdom. Philip is the connecting link between these two
      momentous events that stand at opposite ends of the story of Saul/Paul in
      Jerusalem in Acts - a masterpiece of dramatic literature "based on a true
      story", as they say nowadays.

      Mike Grondin
      Mt. Clemens, MI
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